While climate change can feel like an uncomfortable and complex topic to navigate with children, it is never too early to begin conversations around the health of our planet and our responsibility to protect our shared home. After all, our youngest citizens have proved to be some of the most resilient, innovative and effective activists in the fight against climate change.
At National Children’s Museum, our mission is to inspire children to care about and change the world. Through playful science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) experiences, the museum encourages children to become the next generation of thinkers, doers and innovators. Exhibits and programs are focused on presenting relevant topics that most affect children and families today. As we developed our institution’s new home in downtown Washington, D.C., our team agreed that we would address climate change: the only question was, how? How do we playfully introduce children to the science behind climate change and empower them to take action?
An Interactive Experience That Empowers
The answer: Climate Action Heroes.
With the support of scientists and experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our team at National Children’s Museum developed five Climate Action Superheroes: Arbor Avenger, Community Captain, Mighty Meteorologist, Pollinator Patrol and Water Warrior.
Arbor Avengers defend our trees. They focus on the health and protection of tree cover and trees’ role in the absorption of greenhouse gases. They also encourage reducing paper use and waste.
Community Captains focus on reducing waste. They encourage reducing, reusing, refusing and recycling in their homes, schools and communities. They care about where our trash goes.
Mighty Meteorologists discover weather patterns and make predictions. They focus on safety, preparation and response to extreme weather events and help with climate resilience.
Pollinator Patrollers protect and support pollinators of all kinds, including bees, other insects, birds and bats, and the plants they help pollinate.
Water Warriors protect our ocean and freshwater by keeping them clean. They focus on access to clean drinking water and help with drought preparation and response.
The superpowers are brought to life in the museum with a Climate Action Heroes experience. A physical flow quiz guides visitors through an interactive journey to discover their inner Climate Action Hero. When asked to “Choose a hat!” in the quiz, a child who selects the space helmet might eventually discover they’re a Mighty Meteorologist, while a child who chooses the captain’s hat might be steered towards being a Community Captain.
Once matched with their unique Climate Action Hero, children learn how they can use their newfound superpowers to affect positive change in their home, school and community. Water warriors are challenged to help keep waterways clean by repurposing plastic waste to reduce pollution. Meanwhile, Arbor Avengers are encouraged to protect trees by creating reusable bags from old T-shirts to replace paper bags.
A Lasting – and Virtual – Legacy
The Climate Action Heroes experience is presented alongside a complementary Weather Worlds experience in the museum’s Innovation Sandbox exhibit, which will be updated every two to three years to showcase new and emerging technologies. Created by Design I/O, Weather Worlds invites visitors to use their bodies and gestural movements to create, manipulate and control the weather through green-screen technology and explore the broader impact of human activity on the planet. Once young activists gain superpowers through imaginary play in the Weather Worlds experience, they can move on to the adjacent Climate Action Heroes flow quiz to learn how to use their superpowers in the real world to protect our planet.
During the museum’s temporary in-person closure due to COVID-19, our team created a virtual Climate Action Headquarters at climate-heroes.org. The website is home to a digital version of the in-person Climate Action Heroes flow quiz experience, allowing children to join the movement from wherever they are. Young climate activists who have already discovered their inner Climate Action Heroes report to this virtual headquarters to practice using their superpowers in monthly missions, citizen science projects and climate action challenge STEAMwork videos.
National Children’s Museum continues to partner with what we call real-life climate action heroes, or adults who save the world for a living. They play a starring role in the museum’s resources, including a virtual field trip; our monthly podcast, STEAM Daydream with National Children’s Museum and special events, like Discover STEAM Careers.
We can’t wait to see how today’s young innovators will use their climate-action superpowers to change tomorrow’s world! Visit nationalchildrensmuseum.org for details on the museum’s reopening or to engage with virtual resources.
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